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Understanding the Long-Term Value of Dust Collection System Investments

July 2, 2014

Performing a lifecycle cost analysis is often an overlooked step in evaluating the purchase of a dust collection system. Too often, focus is given only to the initial purchase price of the equipment versus determining the ongoing expenses associated with operating and maintaining the system. Perhaps the reason for this approach is that many companies do not completely understand the relationship between proper dust collection system design and configuration or its impact on operational costs. Many of those initial design decisions and configuration choices make the difference between an effective solution which is a sound return on investment or an inefficient system that drives up operational expenses. If not properly designed, the expenses to operate and maintain a poorly configured system will rapidly exceed the initial purchase price.
    The most expensive aspect of the dust collection system is the energy required to operate the air moving device. Therefore, investments that minimize the horsepower requirement, such as reducing the required airflow volume and operating static pressure, will yield significant long-term savings. Some steps that will decrease the power requirement include having favorable inlet and outlet conditions or utilizing an airfoil fan wheel to allow the blower to operate more efficiently. Incorporating variable frequency drives (VFDs) is an additional investment that can significantly reduce the blower operating expense up to 30%.
    Implementing poor duct design practices or selecting less than ideal duct materials will also negatively impact operating costs. For example, choosing to use long sections of spiral duct or flex duct versus smooth duct may save money on the initial material cost but long term, the additional friction added to the system will increase the static pressure loss requiring additional horsepower to maintain the desired performance. Upgrades to the hood design such as a flanged or bell mouth hood will result in improved contaminant capture while reducing system energy requirements.
    Most dust collection systems utilize a reverse pulse jet arrangement to clean filters and maintain system operating pressure. The associated energy costs of these compressed air systems are another important cost to consider. Taking steps to minimize cleaning frequency or choosing equipment which is more effective per cleaning cycle are essential for controlling ongoing costs. Incorporating an on-demand pressure controller that only cleans the filters as necessary is also a sound investment that can further reduce longer term operating expenses. Choosing filter technology such as nanofiber that incorporates a surface loading layer which improves the effectiveness of a cleaning cycle will decrease the cleaning cycle frequency and lower maintenance costs.
    Considering the lifecycle costs of a dust collection system investment is essential in order to realize the full system value and maximize return on investment. Working with specialists within the industry who understand the impact design can have on long term operating expenses as well as the value of properly configuring the system to match the process and application requirements will yield significant savings over the life of the system.
    Travis Haynam is director of business development at United Air Specialists Inc. (Cincinnati). He has been providing UAS customers with dust, mist, and fume extraction solutions for 13 years. Haynam holds a BS in mechanical engineering and an MBA, both from the University of Cincinnati.

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United Air Specialists Inc.